Sunday of week 2 of Lent – Readings


Commentary on Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18; Romans 8:31b-35,37; Mark 9:2-10

THE STRANGE EXPERIENCE of the Transfiguration described in the Gospel took place very soon after Jesus had been recognised by his disciples as the Messiah. This acknowledgment on their part was a wonderful breakthrough and discovery in their relation with their Teacher and Master.

This had been immediately followed by Jesus telling them he would be rejected by their political and religious leaders and made to suffer and die before rising the third day. It is clear that this came as a terrible shock to the disciples. Their vision of the Messiah was of a glorious, victorious king defeating all the enemies of Israel.

The idea that Messiah would be rejected, made to suffer and die at the hands of his own people was simply unthinkable. It was a total contradiction of the whole concept of the Messiah as Saviour King.

Now it seems that this special experience is being given to balance out the picture. Only a small inner circle is chosen for the experience. It seems that these three disciples, including the leader Peter, are given a glimpse of the “real” Jesus to help them through the dark days ahead.

Full of biblical images

It is a scene full of biblical images. The disciples are brought by Jesus up a solitary mountain. Tradition identifies the mountain as Tabor but it does not really matter. Mountains are traditionally places where God is to be found. Moses delivered God’s Law from the summit of Mount Sinai. Jesus, the new Moses, delivered the New Law (the Sermon on the Mount) from a mountain. There was also Mount Carmel linked with the prophet Elijah and the mountain in today’s First Reading where Abraham took his son Isaac to be sacrificed.

Jesus is transformed with the dazzling light of God’s glory. We remember how Moses on Mount Sinai could not look on the face of God. With Jesus appear Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the Law and Elijah the prophets. Together they represent the whole tradition of God’s people. In being seen talking with Jesus, it is understood that they are endorsing fully all that Jesus says and does as being a continuation of the tradition they represent.

Peter’s reaction

We now have Peter’s impetuous reaction. He is totally overcome by what he realises is a uniquely privileged experience, “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here!” He suggests that three shrines be set up in honour of Jesus, Moses and Elijah to commemorate the vision. The Gospel comments that he did not know what he was talking about. There never would be a shrine to Jesus except in the hearts of his followers.

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